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Top 5 Essential Behaviors to Teach Your Dog

Welcoming a furry friend into your life is an enriching experience, but it comes with the responsibility of training them to be well-behaved companions. Training not only fosters a strong bond between you and your dog but also ensures their safety and happiness. Here are (in my opinion) the top five essential behaviors to teach your canine companion:

1. Name Recognition:

Teaching your dog to respond to their name is fundamental. Start by saying their name in a cheerful tone and rewarding them with treats or praise when they look at you. Repeat this consistently until they associate their name with positive experiences. Practice in various environments to reinforce their understanding.

I would also like to note here that their name is not necessarily a behavior. Their name is more of an attention getter that is usually followed by a behavior cue. By using the steps above to teach your dog their name, it will generally teach them that their name is a good thing and they should pay attention to you for what follows.

2. Hand Touch Behavior:

The hand touch behavior is not only cute but also practical. It helps redirect your dog's attention and serves as the foundation for more advanced behaviors. To teach this, present your hand close to your dog's nose and wait for them to touch your hand with their nose. When they do, reward them. With repetition, they'll learn to touch your hand on command reliably.

When adding a verbal cue to this behavior, say your word first, then stick your hand out towards their nose. Once they are touching your hand quickly, you can start to add distance.

3. Place Behavior:

Teaching your dog to go to a designated "place" or spot on cue is invaluable, especially in situations where you need them to stay put. Start by guiding them to the designated spot and rewarding them for staying there. Gradually increase the duration and distance before rewarding them. This behavior is particularly useful for preventing door dashing and controlling excitement when guests arrive.

Bonus note: when having guests over give them a lick toy or bone to chew to give them something to do rather than bug your guests!

4. Recall:

Recall, is crucial for your dog's safety and your peace of mind, especially when they're off-leash. I actually teach an emergency recall separate from a general "come when called" behavior. The main difference is the value level of treat reward between the two, and how often they are used. We often use "come when called" on a daily basis, and an emergency recall should not be used as often, and should have a much higher-value treat reward.

For both, begin training in a distraction-free environment. Use a happy tone and enticing rewards to encourage them to come to you when you use a recall cue. Gradually introduce distractions, such as other dogs or toys, and practice in different environments to reinforce reliable recall.

5. Stay:

The "stay" behavior teaches your dog impulse control and helps keep them safe in potentially dangerous situations. Start by asking your dog to sit or lie down. Then, with an open palm facing them, say "stay" while waiting a couple of seconds. Reward them for remaining in place. Increase the duration gradually, always rewarding them in their "stay" position before releasing them. Practice in various contexts to generalize the behavior.

Once they can stay for at least 30 seconds, you can start to add distance. Repeat the above process but take one step back in the beginning. Remember to reward them in their "stay" spot before releasing them. Gradually add more steps to increase distance.

Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key to successfully teaching these essential behaviors. Keep training sessions short, fun, and rewarding for both you and your dog. Remember, every dog learns at their own pace, so celebrate their progress and adjust your approach as needed. With time and dedication, you'll have a well-mannered and obedient companion by your side.

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